I don’t know how the weather is where you live, but it’s damn hot here in Texas. These consecutive 90˚ days are enough to make this fall-o-holic fall right off her broom, not to mention feel utterly robbed. Still, I’m determined to carry on with all my cozy fall dinner party plans!
This past week, we celebrated my dear Momma’s 60th birthday as well as another friend’s birthday AND another friend’s recent honor as Librarian of the Year. So despite the disappointing temperatures, there’s lots to celebrate around here. And what better to celebrate than with a warm & comforting fall dinner? Still, as delightful as dinner parties are, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed without an easy menu and game plan. Since this meal was such a hit, I’m sharing the menu with you as well as suggestions for when to prep so that you have more time to enjoy your guests as well as the cooking process!
Warm & Comforting Fall Dinner Menu
Extra special salads are my favorite part of a birthday meal. This one was inspired by the lovely butternut squash Momma brought me from her garden:
To start, seed, peel and cube one medium butternut squash. Place cubes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Bake for 1 hour at 400˚ until tender and caramelized.
While the squash roasts, place 1/2 cup pepitas, or shelled pumpkin seeds, in a small skillet and toast over medium-high heat until golden and fragrant, about 15 minutes. Make sure to stir seeds occasionally to prevent burning. Pour seeds onto a plate to cool and set aside.
In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add 1 large minced shallot and 5 pieces of fully cooked bacon.
Cook’s Note: I use Hormel’s fully cooked frozen bacon.
Saute until shallots are soft. Turn off heat and stir in 3 more tablespoons of olive oil and 1 heaping tablespoon maple syrup. Then whisk in 1/4 cup of your favorite white balsamic or red wine vinegar. Stir in a teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and give the dressing a taste. Add more seasonings and vinegar if desired.
Cook’s Note: I used Pomegranate-Quince White Balsamic Vinegar from Cordell’s. To shop Cordell’s, click here.
Place a large handful of mixed greens on a plate and top with a few pieces of the squash, a sprinkle of pepitas and some goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of the warm dressing over the top and serve.
WHEN TO PREPARE
- Peel and cube the squash the night before and seal in an air-tight container.
- Roast squash up to 3 hours before dinner time.
- Prepare vinaigrette 30 minutes before dinner.
- Assemble salads right before guests arrive or as they are getting drinks.
For the main course, I served this Steak & Ale Pie. Since the dish has plenty of veggies in it already, I decided to save the extra work and leave out a side dish.
WHEN TO PREPARE
- If making your own pastry crust, prepare up to the day before. I used this delicious and simple recipe from Martha Stewart.
- You can prepare the pie filling up to the night before. Allow to cool before covering tightly in plastic wrap and storing in the refrigerator.
- Assemble pie and bake 1 hour before the guests arrive.
The best part about this Apple-Cranberry Crisp (inspired by this Martha Stewart recipe) is that it’s gluten free. That way, if guests splurged on the main course, they can still enjoy dessert. 🙂
Instead of heavy ice cream, I opted for a cinnamon whipped cream to top off the crisp. To make, whip heavy cream with a tablespoon of fine sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon to firm peaks.
WHEN TO PREPARE
- Prepare the morning or afternoon of dinner party. Reheat at 400˚ for 20 minutes while guests are eating dinner.
- Make the whipped cream up to a day in advance. Store in an airtight container in fridge.
Thankfully, the evening cooled off enough for us to enjoy our warm and comforting fall dinner with our warm and comforting friends and family. And thanks to Momma’s help, I even had enough time to run upstairs and brush my hair before the guests arrived. I might have also had enough time to put a bra on. 😉
Here’s to many more festive gatherings this season!
How do you celebrate birthdays?
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 5 strips bacon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine or white balsamic vinegar
- 1 heaping tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup toasted pepitas
- 1-1/2 cup roasted butternut squash
- Goat cheese, crumbled
- Mixed greens
- In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sliced bacon. Saute until shallots are soft. Turn off heat.
- Add 3 more tablespoons of olive oil and whisk in the vinegar and maple syrup until smooth. Add salt and pepper. Taste the dressing and add more seasonings or vinegar to taste.
- Place a heaping cup of greens on a plate. Add a few pieces of the butternut squash, a sprinkle of pepitas and some goat cheese crumbles. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of vinaigrette over the top and serve.
Linking up with:
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